Portraits through the Ages

Alan T. Levenson

312 pages


September 2016


$39.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

September 2016


$39.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

September 2016


$39.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

The complex and dramatic story of Joseph is the most sustained narrative in Genesis. Many call it a literary masterpiece and a story of great depth that can be read on many levels. In a lucid and engaging style, Alan T. Levenson brings the voices of Philo, Josephus, Midrash, and medieval commentators, as well as a wide range of modern scholars, into dialogue about this complex biblical figure.

Levenson explores such questions as: Why did Joseph’s brothers hate him so? What is achieved by Joseph’s ups and downs on the path to extraordinary success? Why didn’t Joseph tell his father he was alive and ruling Egypt? What was Joseph like as a husband and father? Was Joseph just or cruel in testing his brothers’ characters?

Levenson deftly shows how an unbroken chain of interpretive traditions, mainly literary but also artistic, have added to the depth of this fascinating and unique character.



Author Bio

Alan T. Levenson is the Schusterman/Josey Professor of Jewish History at the University of Oklahoma. He is the author or editor of numerous essays and books, including The Making of the Modern Jewish Bible: How Scholars in Germany, Israel, and America Transformed an Ancient Text; An Introduction to Modern Jewish Thinkers; and Between Philosemitism and Antisemitism: Defenses of Jews and Judaism in Germany, 1871–1932 (Nebraska, 2013).


"Even those who think that they know the story will find much to contrast and compare and much to learn in this fascinating account of how the later generations found themselves in the age-old story of Joseph and his brothers."—Jack Riemer, Jewish Advocate

"An excellent companion to the Joseph story."—Howard Freedman,

"This offers one excellent model of how to read a biblical text with care and attention, and should become a key resource for those studying the Joseph narratives."—Richard S. Briggs, Society for Old Testament Study Book List

"Levenson has set a place at the table for all interested readers, inviting all to listen in on significant questions in a conversation that has been going on for millennia. . . . I would, without hesitation, recommend this book to anyone with more than a casual interest in the Joseph story, and especially to Bible readers who are unaware of the rich resources of Jewish biblical interpretation. All readers will benefit from Levenson's enthusiasm, scholarship, and broad perspective. Those who have never had a close encounter with Jewish biblical scholarship will come away educated and even perhaps a bit amazed."—Kapali Lyon, Biography

“An exciting book. Levenson has a wonderful ability to distill classic and contemporary scholarship and mix it with his own original insights in language every reader will find easy to grasp.”—Marc Lee Raphael, Nathan Gumenick Chair of Judaic Studies at the College of William and Mary

“There is simply no other book quite like this. Levenson’s multilayered treatment of the Joseph story, with its Jewish focus and non-Jewish insights interwoven throughout, gives readers the feeling they are being engaged in intimate conversation. Highly recommended.”—Norman A. Stillman, author of The Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times

Table of Contents

1. Joseph: Favored Son, Hated Brother    
2. Joseph the Dreamer    
3. Tamar, a Difficult Hero    
4. Potiphar’s Wife Vilified and Redeemed    
5. Joseph from Rags to Riches    
6. Testing, Dreaming, Punishing    
7. Judah in Joseph    
8. The Return of Rachel    
9. Adopting Ephraim and Manasseh    
10. Jacob’s Valedictory    
11. The Deaths and Burials of Jacob and Joseph    
12. Portraying Egypt in Joseph    
Selected Bibliography    

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